Correction:

Matt Chesher, an adviser at the Transport Workers Union, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Here are the facts about your false allegations in yesterday’s issue.

The discussion you refer to did not take place. I did not speak with the minister’s media adviser before the minister delivered his speech, much less mention any of the dopey concerns you alluded to.

The media adviser referred to did not work for David Borger. The allegation concerning me and that person about “who’s the boss” is rubbish. It never happened. I don’t believe either of us are capable of that kind of stupid conversation, no matter the context. It is a puerile allegation that, in normal circumstances, would be discarded or at least tested by a modest fact-checking exercise.

The minister did not pull out of a media event.

The claims in your article are false and malicious. They are designed to achieve publication, which you willingly supported.

A call to check your facts wouldn’t go astray. You have your day-two story and all that goes with it. Well done.

The Mineral Resource Rent Tax:

Bill Williams writes: Re. “MRRT: a spectacular failure of leadership by all” (yesterday, item 1). What gives Bernard Keane the right to declare, from on high, that the MRRT is “sound from an economic point of view”? Which economic point of view is that? The neo-classical market model?

There are many Australians who are not direct beneficiaries of mining who believe that the MRRT is terribly flawed “from an economic point of view” and is merely symptomatic of a government addicted to tax.

These Australians think that big organisations like BHP, (which prefer to reinvest profits in the further development of their mining leases, rather than increasing shareholder dividends) might spend the money more wisely than the government.

The idea that MRRT will help more Australians to benefit from Australia’s mining boom is based on highly debatable assumptions … and a very narrow policy viewpoint. If the government wants to participate more fully in the mining boom, the MRRT is one strategy: direct investment in Australian mining companies through a sovereign wealth fund is another.

Australian mining has become strong partly as the result of the existing investment environment. Given the impending global financial crisis, any tax increase on the most productive sector of our economy may prove to be terribly short sighted.

The idea that taxing one sector of the economy to give other less competitive sectors a chance to catch up should confirm for us all that we are being led by fools. If this logic were applied to trying to make educational outcomes more equitable, we might consider applying some intellectual impairment to bright students to enable their less bright peers to catch up!

When did Australia’s economists decide that good governance required the government to be the chief handicapper?  This is the economy, Bernard, not the Melbourne Cup … and I am sure that if Ken Henry had sought advice from a Melbourne Cup handicapper such as Greg Carpenter, the advice would not have been to “load up on the favourite, but leave the rest of the field alone”. Surely the existing tax system is enough of a handicap already?

Journalists such as Bernard Keane mistakenly think that opposition to the MRRT only comes from those with a direct investment in mining. There are many Australians who think that government is already too big, too greedy … and that this government in particular will only waste the money on self-serving re-election gimmicks.

Why can’t Crikey employ some journalists who call for tax in Australia to be reduced to zero %, so that we can all start to reduce our carbon footprint by learning to live with less?

Ken Lambert writes: Who decided that a shift to a profits-based approach to resource royalties was decent proposal? The beltway paparazzi who have limited experience of the real world along with Julia Gillard and her hapless and hopeless Treasurer Wayne Swan?

Royalty-based mining taxes basically tax turnover without consideration of profit. They can be set at specific rates to take a proportion of the sales value of the commodity. In that way, the lowest cost, most efficient mining will be encouraged and the highest cost least efficient will go out of business.

Royalties are easy to apply, and impossible to evade — and cheap to administer. How does a miner hide the tonnages and turnover it produces?

The MRRT should have been a federal royalty applying to all commodities — not a narrow profits-based tax on a few big miners, which will do all they can to minimise profit in Australia to pay the least tax.

Swan was even heard to say of the equally flawed Resource Super Profits Tax that most of the smaller miners who were less profitable would hardly pay any tax, even though they would generate more jobs. Great idea Wayne, what we need is more marginal miners digging up the tonnages while paying little tax — and in the event of a downturn in prices — being the first to shut down and sack all those workers.

The cutting of tax deals with the three big miners by the Gillard government is the single most disgraceful exercise in public administration of recent times. The very legitimacy of any tax system is that it taxes a profit, a tonnage or a turnover regardless of which individual or company is involved. All miners of a particular commodity would pay a federal royalty, all corporate makers of a profit would pay a company tax — that is the basis of a sound and equitable tax revenue system.

Who will rid us of this travesty of a government?

Mitchell Watt writes: As a former risk management employee in an Australian investment bank, the debate around the MRRT has highlighted to me the lack of understanding of financial risk by Australian politicians and media analysts.

The opposition has constantly characterised the MRRT as impacting Australia’s “sovereign risk”, but as any finance student would know, sovereign risk refers to the risk of a government to refuse to meet its loan obligations — think of the possible outcome of the ongoing crisis in Greece (and elsewhere) at the moment. By definition, the MRRT increases the government’s income, thereby making it less likely that they default on their loans. The MRRT decreases Australia’s sovereign risk!

What the Coalition should be discussing is country or political risk, and even then it is questionable what effect the MRRT will actually have in a resource-rich country such as Australia.

It may just be an issue of nomenclature, but I think it really reflects a deeper lack of comprehension of risk by Australian politicians.

Margarine:

Dr Lyn Roberts, CEO of the National Heart Foundation of Australia, writes: Re. “Are mums really united in their love of margarine?” (yesterday, item 13). The Heart Foundation has previously debated most of the points David Gillespie raised in yesterday’s Crikey and we continue to disagree. However, we won’t be deterred from promoting our methods for a healthier Australia.

The Mums United campaign is for those who would like information from the Heart Foundation and value our views. Those who’ve joined the campaign are seeking advice on how to prepare healthier meals for their families and be more active. We unapologetically appeal to the mums of Australia because research shows that when mum becomes healthier, the entire family benefits. It’s a cost effective way of reaching the most families we can with our precious dollars

We stand by our position on fats and we support switching from butter to margarine as part of that position. We advocate a balance of good vs. bad fats NOT a low fat diet.

Mr Gillespie notes that we’ve worked with margarine manufacturers to promote their products. We’ve done this where there is a good opportunity to communicate a very important public health message where there is currently a lot of misinformation. Millions of Australians stand to benefit by improving their cardiovascular health and living longer healthier lives by adopting a healthier lifestyle. This includes being active every day and having a healthy balanced diet, including making the switch from butter to margarine. The public health message is consistent with the Heart Foundation’s message for at least 30 years.

However, we challenge the comment that the Mums United campaign “walks like a margarine advertisement and quacks like a margarine advertisement”. None of the Mums United campaign advertising features margarine products or messaging. We would be happy for Crikey to post the advertisements and let readers decide.

Switching from butter to margarine is a very small component to our campaign as part of a broader healthy eating message. We give advice on the health benefits of margarine over butter in the pages on our website including the margarine myth-busting quiz that is hosted there, but again, these benefits are given as a component of our broader healthy eating guidelines.

We also challenge David Gillespie’s comment that “It is not hard to come away from the current campaign with the impression that eating less fat is good for your weight.”

The Fat Busting section on our campaign website starts with: Not all fat is bad. Fats are an essential part of healthy eating so it’s good for you and your family to eat a certain amount of the healthier ones. Good fats are ones that reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood and increase the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. This helps to lower our risk of heart disease.  Unhealthy fats do the opposite.  And goes onto highlight healthier fats and where to find them.

We stand by our position of supporting products that meet Tick’s strict criteria through co-operative marketing activities. Co-operative marketing is available for all Tick licensees and we aim to promote all Tick brands because, by meeting strict criteria and being subject to random audits, we know they represent a healthier choice. Licensees did not pay anything extra to participate in Mums United.

The Heart Foundation is an independent charity.  We seek to help Australians make the changes needed to reduce death and suffering caused by heart disease, Australia’s number one cause of death. Quoting selective research without looking at the vast body of evidence and attacking our integrity won’t dissuade us from this cause.

Anthony Long writes: If the Heart Foundation were serious about promoting products that have genuine health benefits, it would stop promoting margarine, which is rich in palm oil. Palm oil is rich in saturated fats and low in polyunsaturated fats — not to mention the strong evidence that palmitic acid consumption contributes to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

And this concern about margarine doesn’t take into consideration the environmental impact of palm oil plantations.

Michaela Banerji writes:  …Not to mention that to look at the way that margarine is manufactured would make a mother weep, and never buy it again … happily providing butter to her family instead…!

Kyle Sandilands:

Denise Marcos writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Any sponsor of Kyle Sandilands needs to be reminded that women comprise half the audience: no business can risk alienating 50% of their target market. Holden and The Good Guys have responded prudently.

Sandilands venting his spleen on a News Ltd journalist is misdirected, the ratings figures prove he is merely shooting the messenger. The indisputable evidence is that Australian viewers did not like what he deemed to be entertainment. Fact.

Peter Fray

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